Voilà!

Voler: c’est le geste de la femme
A work in progress by the artist of Judith Klemenc

Elisabeth Schäfer

“Voler, c’est le geste de la femme, voler dans la langue, la faire voler, […]” Hélène Cixous writes, and translated to English, it sounds like this: “Voler, stealing (away), flying (off), that is the movement of the woman in whose language flies away stealing, get the language to make her steal away.”[1] It is this flying that wants to escape the heavy lying and the even heavier succumbing; it is this flying that also steals away from an upright standing “to assume an upright posture, like that which is theoretically called, that is not my concern at all.”[2] Hegel still speaks of an upright posture of thinking when he writes, “The first thing that must be learned here is to stand upright […].”[3] In Judith Klemenc’ work, nothing stands at all. And whether the objects, the bodies, ‘lie’ in their arrangements is unclear. The bodies have an ephemeral power that always lifts them, or rather, more easily: airs them. They already fly, they also fly away from writing. But this does not mean that we can only shout after them. It is not that sad. It is, too. There is always a traumatic trace that Judith Klemenc’ works wind their way along. The pain, the succumbing, is there, drawing breaks into the sculptural without wanting to hide them. A picture is hewn. To sculpture, Latin sculptura, to: sculpere (by digging, pricking, cutting) carve, form, chisel something. All this is transferred into the material. And yet, something always resists, escapes, steals away.
Flying, stealing, flying off, stealing away – that is the movement of a woman, and more than her movement can perhaps not be said, or something more precisely than her movement cannot be said. As if that were too little, as if a movement were not already the greatest promise to be said. All attempts to define the woman in terms of her being, to define her, end up in making her succumb, categorizing her, naturalizing her, essentializing her. In her essay, The Laughter of Medusa, Hélene Cixous shows her readers* how the female sex has been subject to patriarchal tradition for thousands of years, in the “below” [4]  and “outside”[5]  of culture. She evokes it infinitely often anew and calls for the “machinery of lies and deception” of the patriarchal narrative to be “ruined”[6] and for her own, one, one more and one more and one more new story – her story instead of history – to be written. What is needed is a new, a different, a diverse, an infinitely moving, a changing, a flying, a “female” writing, which is to contribute to the “transformation of social and cultural structures”[7] and which is to point a way out, an escape route, an airway, a flight path out of the labyrinth of male language dominance. “Women” who write “with white ink”[8] must find their way back to their bodies or let them arrive in their future; the bodies that have been determined, defined, essentialized and naturalized up to now, that were and are shut down, that should succumb in a discourse that cunningly operates with the invention of shame and robs pleasure.[9] E A “woman without a body”[10] remains mute and blind, she remains an instrument subject to the players who invented her. Another writing from a body that is no longer succumbing but flying under can make her body, all her bodies, speak as “singing flesh.”[11] A speaking that does not exalt itself, does not assume an upright posture, a speaking that does not vengefully re-subjugate, a speaking, a writing that dares the aporetic: flying under. To fly where one would otherwise dive or swim. Flying in another element. Flying under as a movement of bottom-turning also means subverting. As Gertrude Postl puts it, for Cixous, there is “no mind without body, no culture without nature […] and above all no body without language and no language without the body.”[12] She is sounding, flying, overturning, infinitely continuing, enabling, always moving and changing; for her, there is no limit, no death.[13]
According to Claudia Simma, the translator of Medusa’s laughter, “aile”/“wings” and “elle”/“she” are homophonic in French.[14] To re-sign this homophony does not mean to resign, not to become resigned, but deconstructive – like the works of Judith Klemenc that know the traumatic severity of inscription, the violence of sculpting as well as of the no less harsh “sculpting” of a social, physical subject-sculpture, and that do not want to counter or even impose a fantastic counter-world on it too easily and all too quickly. In the works of Judith Klemenc, nothing is glossed over; rather, these works dare their rewriting, their subversion, their turning and wrenching out where they find themselves painful in the momentum of contemporary history – still down – but no longer lying down, but flying. Thus, they move themselves and others further. Voilà: Voler, c’est le geste de la femme.


[1] Hélène Cixous: Das Lachen der Medusa. In: Esther Hutfless, Gertrude Postl, Elisabeth Schäfer (Hg.), Das Lachen der Medusa zusammen mit aktuellen Beiträgen, Wien: Passagen Verlag 2013, S. 39–63, here: p. 53
[2] Hélène Cixous/Elisabeth Schäfer: Medusas “Changeance”. Ein Interview mit Hélène Cixous. In: Esther Hutfless, Gertrude Postl, Elisabeth Schäfer (Hg.): Das Lachen der Medusa zusammen mit aktuellen Beiträgen, Vienna: Passagen Verlag 2013, pp. 181–193, here: p. 190
[3] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Gesamtausgabe 1832– 45. Werke VII
[4] Cixous, Das Lachen der Medusa, p. 41
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., p. 47
[7] Ibid., p. 43
[8] Ibid., p. 46
[9] Cf. Ibid., p. 51
[10] Ibid., p. 44
[11] Ibid., p. 55
[12] Gertrude Postl: Eine Politik des Schreibens und des Lachens: Versuch einer historischen Kontextualisierung von Hélène Cixous’ Medusa-Text. In: Esther Hutfless, Gertrude Postl, Elisabeth Schäfer (Hg.): Das Lachen der Medusa zusammen mit aktuellen Beiträgen, Vienna: Passagen Verlag 2013, pp. 21–39, here: p. 28
[13] Cf. Cixous: Das Lachen der Medusa, pp. 53, 55
[14] Cf. Claudia Simma: Medusas diebische Vergnügen. In: Esther Hutfless, Gertrude Postl, Elisabeth Schäfer (Hg.): Das Lachen der Medusa zusammen mit aktuellen Beiträgen, Vienna: Passagen Verlag 2013, pp. 73–80, here: p. 75